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Role of Voluntary and Community Sector in Transforming Health and Social Care

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Health and Wellbeing agenda has far reaching implications not just the VCS but for society as a whole, implications which have yet to be realised.  The 5 Year Forward View and the Social Act underpin a strategy of growing the provider market, but currently the focus has been on enabling and supporting public sector agencies to become better commissioners and, to build integrated/multi-professional teams in community settings. Little attention has been given to the role and involvement of the VCS in transforming health and social care provision.

We know that many VCS organisations view health and wellbeing as core or central to all their services irrespective of their area of specialism. Clinicians and health managers recognise the need to do things differently and the VCS has started to take a more strategic role.  But what is it that the VCS bring as added value to transforming the health and social care system? It’s how the VCS deliver services. There are concepts particularly associated with VCS that set them apart from other types of providers: Their brand and credibility in the communities they serve; flexibility in responding to changing needs; access and reach into ‘harder to reach’ groups, and leveraging additional resources.

So how can the VCS participate in transforming the health and social care system? Well the relationship between health and social care clinicians and professionals need to change.

In measuring and valuing the impact made by VCS organisations, indicators, data and information need to be developed, shared with and agreed upon by commissioners that are meaningful to evidencing solutions that work.  This requires health and social care commissioners and managers to support the evaluation of services provided by VCS; and for VCS to make robust the evidence that demonstrates the outcomes and impact.

The health and social care public agencies need to draw upon the value of the VCS by improving its knowledge and understanding of its role and remit.  Proactive time and resource efficient ways need to be identified by health and social care public agencies to engage the VCS in the transformation agenda. VCS organisations need to reflect on where their strengths lie and how these strengths can contribute to the transformation agenda nationally or locally.

Multi-layered and mult-focused strategies and policies need to be developed to support the growth of the VCS provider market, in recognition that the VCS is diverse in size and varied in organisational capacity and income. Health and social care commissioning and procurement processes need to relate to this diversity, and not one approach fits all.